Monday, January 24, 2011

"Candidate Calls For Licensing Overnight Homeless Shelters"

A reader sent us an article from the subscription website Early and Often.  We don't have permission to post any more than the first couple lines.  But color us horrified:  Homeless shelters don't have to be licensed in the City of Chicago.

We live in a city where cars need biannual inspections.  Dogs and gumball machines must be licensed.  Funeral homes, in order to provide care to the dead, have to meet certain standards.  But overnight homeless shelters, which provide care to the living, and a very vulnerable segment of the population at that, aren't subject to any of this oversight?

The small excerpt of the article that we have permission to run is below.  You can read the article in its entirety at Early and Often for a fee.

Candidate Calls For Licensing Overnight Homeless Shelters.  Homeless shelters have long been a point of contention in the 46th Ward and aldermanic candidate James Cappleman is wading into the middle of the debate.  Cappleman told the Chicago News Cooperative he thinks licensing overnight homeless shelters, which some …


  1. license everything. the city needs the fees

  2. Licensing will have no effect on quality of care provided - it will simply give alderman more power.

  3. I realize that "homelessness" is not really on most pols radar. Some like to give it lip service to show they care when on camera. But most don't really have any idea what is going on with those that are homeless or the services that are provided to them. But since city, state and federal tax dollars sometimes go to homeless shelter programs it would be nice if there was a more intense push to set some standards for these programs. Social Workers often talk about "best practices” but that is due to our ethical obligations. Since someone in City Government took the time to write an ordinance to keep me from buying spray paint, small plastic bags and from feeding the pigeons in Chicago. Maybe it would make sense to come up with some concrete expectations for those working in and running these types of services. Then like CHA housing or our neighborhood coffee shop we as taxpayers and neighbors could forward our documented concerns to someone who oversees these programs/businesses. It is nice to see someone talking about some evaluation of social service programs. It does not mean to “get rid of all of them” as some might fear. It means evaluate all of them across the City to see if they are doing what they say they are doing and is there something else they could do to improve in the future. Those of us who work in this type of setting don’t fear honest evaluation, as a matter of fact we wish all programs were in fact evaluated and not protected by a local Alderman. When other social service programs do a poor job, it only makes already challenging work that much harder for the rest of us in this field!

  4. It's amazing that there isn't licensing of such shelters already.

    Licensing, standards, and an enforcement arm to make sure they are operating properly makes perfect sense.

    I can just hear the cries of injustice from those who claim to care about the homeless about being forced to operate with oversight.

    The horror........the horror.....

  5. This is a BAD idea!

    Caring for the poor is an honorable mission which deserves more support, not regulation. We are not talking about spray cans or restaurants here. The effect this would have would be fewer shelters, more people on the street in desperate circumstances. What good could possibly come of that scenario?

    This will backfire and never receive the level of support city-wide to be adopted. Of course its not my call, just an opinion.

    I have no intention of subscribing to a webpage. There are other ways to get to the heart of the matter.

    Mr. Cappleman will be the next featured "candidate of the week" in our forums (Mercy Housing Tenant Leadership).

    It will be held at the Lakeview Church 4716 N. Malden St. this coming Thursday 1/27 at 6:00pm.

    Plenty of parking behind the church.

    The dates and times are in the UU sidebar well.


    Jeffrey Littleton

  6. It would also be nice that someone would be checking on all the people who work at shelters as "Social Workers." I have met far to many over the years that do not have anything close to a Social Work education or License. Having a licensing department monitor who actually works there might be a good thing. Just a note for others: If you don't have a College Degree and a License from the State of IL, you are not permitted to call yourself a Social Worker!

  7. I have experience with being homeless, I can tell you that some of the shelters I stayed in were marked by abuse and unprofessionalism, some of the so-called "social workers" took delight in degrading and humiliating people. They never seem to encourage the severely mentally ill to get help and the shelters often extremely hostile environments, filled with bullying and threats of violence. It took a lot of sacrifice and waiting to get out of the situation, and it's hard to let the resentment of my experiences go.

  8. Caring for the poor is an honorable mission which deserves more support, not regulation. -Jeffrey

    Jeffrey, should just homeless shelters be exempt from licensing or should we also include not licensing child daycare centers and nursing homes? As far as I'm concerned, they're honorable missions as well. Hey, let's exempt hospitals as well.

    I like your new rule: If it's honorable, no license is needed.

  9. Unfortunately I have a work function this Thursday or would attend the candidates forum. I hope some of the readers on this blog can go because it is obvious that Mr. Littleton, the moderator of this event, is biased. This will undoubtedly be Cappleman walking into the Lions Den and I hope some of you that support this incredibly sane and intelligent idea are there to back him up..

  10. Its not a rule Holey Moley...its called compassion.

    The bottom line is there is NO way the full City Council and the Mayor, whoever it will be will support it.

    Shelters are not hospitals. (period) Words have meanings.

    There are also constitutional reasons why you can't tell churches and the like they need a permit to conduct their humanitarian mission. But I am not a lawyer.

    I fully agree with the comment of Mr. Ross, this will have no effect on the quality of care. It will likely reduce the number of beds available, where will they go? Wisconsin, Ravenswood, the Loop...the street?

    Compassion is the the only rule I implied in my previous post and I say it expressly now....have compassion!


    Jeffrey Littleton

  11. Uptown Vegetarian,

    Us vegetarians are usually on the same wavelength, so kudos for your comments, I totally agree with you. Another good thing about this story is that I'm not surprised that it's James taking on this issue. This election just keeps getting easier and easier.... Unless I'm missing ALL the other stories about the other candidates doing things in Uptown, James pretty clearly is the only one working his tail off to make our lives better. He didn't even need an election to start building support, he's already been doing the job for years.

    I'd enjoy hearing from opposing supporters, no one has even come close to having an argument about who has the longest track record for activism in Uptown....

  12. Regulate the "rich" but don't regulate the "charities" which happen to make a nice living "caring" for people.

  13. Jeffrey, are you suggesting that churches that run orphanages or hospitals do not have to be licensed to operate? I believe they do.

  14. Yes Rob I am biased in favor of compassion. I confess.
    Will James be walking into a Lions Den? Not if I have anything to say about it because I respect and like James as a person and for what he has done for our Uptown. And he is a hard-worker indeed. The other candidates are accessible to inquire about this either at our forum or others OR directly, use your real name when contacting them it matters.
    I welcome and encourage everybody to attend and be part of the dialogue. Just because I may disagree on this matter, at least the partial paragraph, does not mean I intend to be mannerless, we have enough O that in the "virtual" world.

    As well I believe we have an awesome bunch of candidates. I haven't even decided for myself who to vote for. This is the most civil election cycle I've ever seen in Uptown and I've been around a while. The candidates themselves have conducted their campaigns with distinction, no mud-slinging.
    We should all follow their example.

    So please come one come all, push away from the computer and be a part of your culture, participate.
    Plenty of free parking, enter through alley between Malden and Beacon.


    Jeffrey Littleton

  15. Jeffrey, please get off your high horse. How dare you infer that I lack compassion. I think homeless shelters should be regulated. Do you think The Greater Chicago Food Depository, of which I am a regular donor, is not regulated? Are they not in the compassion business.. You, Mr. Littleton, are a selfish man who is only looking out for your narrow interests and not the interests of those most vulnerable. Shame on you

  16. Anyone else? That's it? Hospitals are regulated so why not shelters? I don't want them near me or on every corner?
    How much money can one earn operating an overnight shelter? much?
    A day care center is the same?
    What is the point of this in the first place since it will never happen? A shelter is a shelter not a hot dog stand or a pharmacy or for-profit.
    My interests are narrowly defined to the subject of this post and within this post. I do in fact have other interests as do most people.
    Hospitals dispense medical care.
    Day care centers involve children.
    A shelter involves a mat, climate control....shelter. No prepared food etc. I think we all know that.
    Overnight shelters perform a valued service to society whether a particular individual cares to notice or not.

    How could this dead-end idea possibly improve the situation for our most vulnerable? Anybody can say they donate to anybody.

    Don't answer these questions, its perfectly fine.

    My comments in this blog are for the general public, not the regular commentators exclusively just for the record.


    Jeffrey Littleton

  17. Maybe Jeffery Littleton did not read the posted article about a few guidelines from commenters. Three times posted I see his rhetoric on this article is more then enough and wish he would show some respect toward other readers and commenters.

  18. Hospitals dispense medical care.
    Day care centers involve children.
    A shelter involves a mat, climate control....shelter. -Jeffrey Littleton

    You're wrong, Jeffrey. A shelter involves real live human beings who just happen to be homeless. That you don't grasp that frightens me.

  19. Does anyone else remember when Cornerstone used to lock their homeless population inside Sylvia Center at night, with no way for them to get out in case of emergency? (A practice that was discontinued once knowledge of it became public, thank God.)

    Does anyone else remember the many, many building violations Sylvia Center received during that same time period, including water dripping on a rusty, live fusebox, unsafe wiring, and no fire alarms or fire escapes?

    Perhaps if shelters were licensed, "compassionate care" would be tempered with safe conditions for those who are served by them.

    As far as Sylvia Center in the early 2000s, when that was the condition of their premises, they and their charges are damn lucky Uptown didn't end up with one of the most notorious, deadly fires in Chicago's history.

  20. @ Jeffrey Littleton (a.k.a. Li'l J)

    I am behind you 100% but I'm too lazy to writ more. Please continue your defense of compassion and freedom.

    Rob Ross

    PS Li'l J and I are the only ones who use their real names. Wonder why?

  21. Licensing will have no effect on quality of care provided - it will simply give alderman more power. - Rob Ross

    If you can ever get more energy and would care to substantiate this claim with some real facts, I'd love to hear.

  22. @ Rob Roos and Jeffrey Littleton - Congratulations on using your real names when posting your views on this blog. If I didn't have a rationale basis for fearing my safety when I walked out my front door, I might use my real name too.

    @ Jeffrey - It is widely known you have a personal vested interest on this topic.

    As it stands, I neither think your criticism of Cappleman's proposal is credible or informed. James Cappleman is a former school teacher, Franciscan friar, social worker, and community organizer. As best I can tell, his entire life has been devoted to public service and helping others. To suggest that he does not an informed viewpoint on how best to hold social services agencies accountable and make them more effective is disingenuous. To suggest that he lacks compassion for the less fortunate of society is almost laughable.

    I will not suggest that Cappleman is the only good candidate in this race, but given the complex concerns of our ward I can't think of any other candidate who can speak from personal experience about balancing the importance of many social service agencies and also knowing first-hand many of the problems or shortcomings that need to be addressed.

    If a truly well meaning and do-good social service agency is concerned about oversight from a fellow social worker, perhaps that organization needs to look hard in the mirror.

    Furthermore, I like an aldermanic candidate who advocates for Investigator General oversight of all alderman, which Cappleman supports. If someone is willing to have an IG looking over his shoulder and investigating if there are areas in question, I not only have more respect for him personally, but I also better trust that individual to be thoughtful and judicious when looking over the shoulder of other organizations operating in our community.

  23. A friendly reminder.

    There is a forum tonight featuring Candidate James Cappleman.

    Lakeview Church. 6PM

    4716 Malden St. Parking in rear

    @ Mr Ross.
    I appreciate the support even if I must suffer the tag of "Lil J". Harharhar.

    I would say every resident and business owner should have as I do a personal interest in this election and by extension our community...our Uptown as it is Home.

    In regards to the "vested" interest please clarify before I can respond in a comprehensive manner.

    Do you mean financial? Since I have no money to give and have received none I'll have to debunk that lil' theory now.

    Do you mean like vestments? Someone-else thought because this is in a church its faith related or religious, I hgave no priestly vestments, sorry.

    No this is a secular, civil, community event and your all cordially invited.


    Jeffrey Littleton (moderator)

  24. @ Jeffrey - Thanks. In all sencerity, I appreciate your clarification because I think I incorrectly believed you worked for or were otherwise affiliated with a shelter. Not that it would make your opinion any less valid, but I incorrectly thought you had a relationship with shelter. Guess that's not the case, and I do not doubt the sincerity of your viewpoint.

    That said, I continue to think Cappleman's proposal is very reasonable, and having spoken to him (and other candidates) on this topic previously, I genuinely believe his proposed ordinance is solely meant to protect the safety of the residents of the shelter and is not meant to create financial or administrative burdens that would shut down a shelter.

    But this issue aside, how did the forum go tonight? Was he asked about this topic, and did he give any details about it? Any other observations on other topics, question from residents, etc?

    Thanks for taking the initiative to host these forums for all the candidates. Despite which person wins (and I think there are fortunately a few good options), I am happy that this election seems like it will at least be the most open and informed election in quite a while.

  25. Every shelter that receives a penny of funding from the state or city is inspected and audited. Most are also independently accredited.

    In addition, all shelters require zoning approval.

    Why Cappleman things we need or can afford to create another layer of red tape and bureaucracy is beyond me.

  26. Uh, YDD, the Salvation Army Shelter located at Sunnyside and Broadway operated at this site for over a decade. Do you know why it really closed down? It was never zoned to be there.

    Cornerstone was operating for years and a resident discovered that all the remodeling that was being done was for a building never meant to be zoned for occupancy. Maybe that's why it was never caught that there were no adequate escape routes should there be a fire or that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to lock the residents in with no way of getting out; all done to save money on security.

    There are some good shelters out there, but let's be honest. There are some other shelters where I wouldn't allow my dog to sleep. Cappleman is a social worker who has worked with the homeless so it's a safe guess that his intention is to be their advocate. Get real.

  27. Rob, are you suggesting that we then do away with licensing day care centers, doctors, nurses, building contractors, and animal shelters? Because really, if licensing doesn't improve the quality of service, why bother with licensing anything?

  28. If this is a good idea to license and tax overnight shelters then the same would be true for landlords and condo boards.

    Why not a landlord license? Because its stupid.

    All of the complaints such as leaky electrical boxes, locked fire doorsn etc. are laws already on the books. They are called building codes.

    Additional regulation of the operators will help how?

    At the forum yesterday much was discussed about the hassles small businesses experience in dealing with permits downtown, its negative effects on small business in particular.

    And the intention is to throw non-profit over-night shelters into that dysfunctional mix.

    The bottom-line is no way could Mr. Cappleman garner the support of mre than 5 or 6 other alderman on the council to pass this. It won't happen.

    So if you think this is a "great" idea and don't mind never seeing it come to frutition then by all means vote accordingly.

    At this point it is what it is.


    Jeffrey Littleton

  29. Jeffrey,
    You hosted the forum at Mercy Housing and I'm sure you or someone there asked Cappleman about the licensing of the homeless shelters. What was his response? You were asked this same question before on this very same thread, but you never responded. Was there anything outrageously expensive or burdensome that Cappleman was asking for? Inquiring minds who weren't able to make it there want to know.

    Under the present system, shelters have operated without having proper zoning so that tells me something about their poor oversight. Remember now, we're talking about protecting the safety of the homeless. They do deserve to have regulations in place to make them safe, right?

  30. @ Holy Moley

    Your correct, I was the moderator of the forum. Not a court reporter, the forum was poorly attended but its not my fault or that of UptownUpdate, they did a good job plugging the gig.
    I will not speak for any candidate, all of them are available to ask personally.

    If you need more information from Mr. Cappleman call his office and inquire. The question did come up. It was answered.

    I respect James but I fervently disagree with him on this matter. We can fix the problems without doing this, it will never pass anyway.

    I am sure he picked up a few votes even if I don't personally know of any.

    I can say he has definately lost some support as well.

    This is not "working together", it is dead-end legislation, and divisive, that is my opinion alone in this comment but I have company.


    Jeffrey Litlleton

  31. Jeffrey, when you get a chance, I would love to see the polling you've done of the other aldermen.

    I did take your advice and found out that Cappleman wants shelters to be required to have locked cabinets to store confidential records and certain medications that are at risk for getting stolen. That doesn't sound too divisive to me.

  32. @Jeffrey,

    Either you already know how all of the new and re-elected aldermen on City Council will vote (and if that's the case, YOU should have run for alderman if you're that well-informed and can predict the future), or you don't have the slightest idea of how laws and ordinances are hashed out through discussion/alteration/compromise in the legislative process, and you haven't learned the wisdom to never speak in absolutes about things you may not be familiar with.

    I would say that this issue is important enough to Mr. Cappleman and to many many others in Uptown that we 1) don't want to see taxpayer-subsized shelters OR housing mismanaged to the point of risking the lives, limbs, health, or safety of the people we're helping to live there (through tax dollars OR by charitable donations); 2) don't want to see these places turned into revolving doors without offering the means to offer a hand up and the opportunity to change lives for the better; and 3) don't want to see these places turned into cesspools and human dumping grounds that affect the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life for the surrounding communities that live there and deal with the aftermath.

    If the organizations that own and manage these places can't achieve some lowest common denominators set out in a reasonable licensing process, then they have no business operating. If you are advocating for them, then YOU need to put pressure on them to do a better job of making sure that they aren't deathtraps for fire and crime, that their clients aren't hurt by their physical plant or by other clients, and that they network to the maximum extent practicable with the plethora of social services that Helen Shiller has pulled into the neighborhood. There are NO excuses for failing to care for our vulnerable population by putting them in dangerous shelters, and with the City's and State's (and individual's) budget crises...we can't afford to be throwing any more good money after bad. The days of the Shiller Feeding Trough and Robin Shillerhood--robbing the middle class to sustain her status quo--are over.

  33. @ Molly

    You sarcastically ask if I want to "do away with licensing day care centers, doctors, nurses, building contractors, and animal shelters? Because really, if licensing doesn't improve the quality of service, why bother with licensing anything?"

    Now you're getting it! In almost all these cases, licensing does nothing to improve the quality of the service offered. Instead, it restricts market competition making these services more scarce and more expensive.

    It is telling that every licensed occupation supports their license. The first liquor license laws ever enacted were done so on the behest of the distilling and brewing industries, not against them. The first prescription law was enacted to allow doctors to write prescriptions for alcohol during prohibition. And it's safe to say that every labor union supports licensing of unionized professionals because it's a way to raise wages in that field.

    This is an important discussion, and I'm glad the ONLY candidate who is proposing new ideas sparked it (shameless plug, I know). It's important for residents to realize that licensing is the policy equivalent to fishing with dynamite - wasteful and destructive.

    Let me make a last point here: a homeless shelter licensing law will be used by alderman to prevent homeless shelters from opening in their ward. Nobody really wants a homeless shelter in their neighborhood, but they have to go somewhere. We're all compassionate people here, and we should ask ourselves whether we want to make it even harder for homeless shelters to operate in Chicago.

  34. @bear60...

    Good sentiment. Bad logic. Even if the license requirements are simple, basic and easily met by someone who knows what they are doing, it is still a burden.

    Allow me an example: I am a rugby coach, but I do not have a license. I have played rugby for 6 years - I know what I'm doing. USA Rugby offers a coaching certification that costs more than $600 and takes two full days to complete. They do not offer the clinic in Chicago, and where they do offer the clinic they only offer it once a year.

    Can I pass the certification? Of course, but it's a real pain and it's a bit expensive. Does this mean I shouldn't coach? If this license was state law, I wouldn't be able to coach as I do now. And some teams, DePaul Men's I think, wouldn't be able to play because they have no licensed coach.

  35. Rob Ross said...
    Let me make a last point here: a homeless shelter licensing law will be used by alderman to prevent homeless shelters from opening in their ward. Nobody really wants a homeless shelter in their neighborhood, but they have to go somewhere. We're all compassionate people here, and we should ask ourselves whether we want to make it even harder for homeless shelters to operate in Chicago.

    Thank you for making this important point. Not only could a licensing law be used to prevent a shelter from opening, but it could be used to close one down. Both tactics trouble me.

  36. Oh Rob,

    One difference between your tweedy, rugby playing pretentious self and Cappleman is that he actually founded a shelter. His beliefs are based on experience. Your beliefs are based on philosophy.

    There is only one truly American philosophy: Pragmatism.

    Being self reliant you don't need a hyperlink.

    Regulation and licensing laws are needed. The question becomes one of "reasonableness".

    Now we live in a ward where the center entrance six flat is ubiquitous. Most of those buildings are now condos. Should someone have the right to purchase one of those units and turn it into an overnight shelter without any regulation or input from neighbors or the community?

    It's a rhetorical question.

    Some people do. Some people philosophize. Some people plant trees. Other people criticize where the trees were planted or the types of trees.

    Cappleman has real world experience running shelters. You apparently don't. That doesn't mean he is always right, it just means his opinions are based on something more than worshipping at the altar of a philosophy.

    It's the difference between only watching porn and thinking you're an expert on sex or actually having sex with someone who isn't wearing a Milton Friedman mask at the time.

    One watches and criticizes. The other gets down and dirty and knows something about real life.

    God, I've outdone myself. Porn and Milton Friedman in one paragraph.

    It's good to be me.

  37. @Irish Pirate

    I don't pretend to know your background and experience, though you think you know mine. I do, however, know James' fairly well now. I know that he is probably the most experienced person in this ward when it comes to pragmatic approaches to social issues, which is why I've taken his proposal seriously and why I've spent the time I have thinking about this issue. Look at this discussion thread and tell me that James isn't the candidate that sparks discussions and community involvement among interested citizens. This issue, and this discussion undoubtedly casts James in a positive light.

    That said, I would point out that most of your post is simply a personal attack against my choice of athletics, my awesome tweed jacket, and the name of my blog. I don't really care, but you should. Instead of just insulting me by calling me pretentious, you should try to change my mind. You might not be successful, but in the attempt you might find that you educate yourself and others who read this blog.

    Do you have any specific, real situation where someone attempted to run a homeless shelter out of a condo? That seems really impractical. It's best to talk about real situations rather than imagined, rhetorical scenarios that prey on class and race bias.

  38. @Tucan

    Sometimes the best laws enacted with the best intentions can have a disastrous effect. It's always a good idea to ask "If I were a despicable person in a position of power, how could I abuse this law and hurt the general welfare of the city?" Some people, myself included, may just be more capable of this type of thinking. It probably has to do with a weak moral constitution.

  39. Oh Rob,

    I do deeply regret insulting your awesome tweed jacket.

    Again, let me use pretentious words so you understand, sometimes regulations and an enforcement regime are necessary in this thing we call the real world. Wrap your curriculum vitae around real life and not some philosophical concepts that don't play out perfectly in the real world.

    Now I'm done playing with you. Your "awesome" tweed jacket word choice is like Lee surrendering at Appomattox Courthouse. It's over babee whether you like it or not.

  40. @Irish Pirate

    How'd you like playing with my curriculum vitae?